You are walking back home. Suddenly the ground seems to open and a security drone emerges, blocking your way to verify your identity. This might sound far-fetched but it is based on an existing technology – a drone system made by the AI company Sunflower Labs.
As part of an international project looking at the impact of AI on cities, we recently “broke ground” on a new field of research called AI urbanism. This is different from the concept of a “smart city”. Smart cities gather information from technology, such as sensor systems, and use it to manage operations and run services more smoothly.
AI urbanism represents a new way of shaping and governing cities, by means of artificial intelligence (AI). It departs substantially from contemporary models of urban development and management. While it’s vital that we closely monitor this emerging area, we should also be asking whether we should involve AI so closely in the running of cities in the first place.
The development of AI is intrinsically connected to the development of cities. Everything that city dwellers do teaches AI something precious about our world. The way you drive your car or ride your bike helps train the AI behind an autonomous vehicle in how urban transport systems function.
What you eat and what you buy tells AI systems about your preferences. Multiply these individual records by the billions of people that live in cities, and you will get a feeling for how much data AI can harvest from urban settings.